NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Texas should be allowed to halt a common second-trimester abortion procedure, state attorneys told a federal appeals court on Thursday in a hearing full of pain arguments fetus and the right of women to a medically safe abortion.
A 2017 Texas law, which has never been enforced, prohibits the use of forceps to remove a fetus from the uterus – what the law’s supporters call a “dismembering abortion” – without first using a injected drug or an aspiration procedure to ensure the fetus is dead.
The state has long argued that it has a legal interest in prohibiting what it calls a “brutal” procedure. Abortion rights advocates argue the law effectively prohibits what is often the safest method of abortion for women in the second trimester of pregnancy – a procedure medically known as dilation and dilation. evacuation. They also argue that fetuses cannot feel pain during the legally affected gestation period, and that an alternative described by the state, the use of suction to remove a fetus, also results in dismemberment.
A three-judge panel at the 5th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocked enforcement last year, and other federal courts have blocked similar laws. But opponents of legal abortion hope the Supreme Court, now made up of three appointees by former President Donald Trump, will revisit the issue.
Against that backdrop, a majority of the 17-member Fifth Circuit agreed to Thursday’s re-hearing in open court, which included sometimes heated discussions about whether a fetus can experience pain.
Kyle Hawkins of the Texas Attorney General’s office argued that second-trimester fetuses are “capable of pain.” He said the law does not impose an unconstitutional burden on a woman seeking an abortion and that the state has a legitimate interest in requiring a “more humane” method of abortion.
“Even in high school, if you’re going to dissect a frog, kill it before you start dismantling it,” Judge Edith Jones later said while questioning Center for Reproductive rights attorney Molly Duane.
“First of all,” Duane replied, “the record clearly shows that fetal pain is not possible at gestational ages -“
“Well, we don’t know the pain of frogs, do we?” Jones interrupted him. “It’s about taking creatures, not tearing them limb by limb.”
In briefs, the center cites findings from the American Medical Association, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical organizations that pain cannot be felt until 24 weeks gestation.
Texas law can cause unnecessary delays for a woman seeking an abortion and the requirements are medically unnecessary, Duane argued. In addition, Duane argued, a doctor cannot be certain of fetal death in many cases until a procedure has begun, raising questions among 5th Circuit judges on Thursday about whether the doctor performing the abortion with forceps becomes liable to prosecution if the medicine has not worked.
Hawkins said the doctor in this circumstance had options, including a second injection.
In 2019, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear arguments regarding a ruling blocking a similar Alabama law. But abortion opponents have read another opinion from Chief Justice John Roberts in a separate case on abortion regulation as indicating that states have greater latitude to regulate abortion.
Since then, conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett has also joined the Supreme Court, bolstering hopes among abortion opponents that the nation’s highest court may be open to further restrictions on the procedure.